And just as we're reving up to drag out lazy selves back to the gym (well I am, at least), poet Ruth Padel begs us not to bother. The road to feeling better about yourself is paved with obsessive intentions about bodily fitness, she notes, but how much better it is to build up our muscles for poetry instead, for a more lasting feel-good factor.
Poetry ... is not only good for you, and protects us against meaninglessness: by the pleasure it gives in its artifice, images and imagination, and in the little nudgy sensual relationships between words and sounds that hint at new ideas, poetry augments and reflects our delight in the world. ... Reading poetry truthfully, responsibly, fortifies your own individual inwardness. Poetry is the art of concentration not just from the poet's point of view (chucking out what you don't need, boiling down the words, the thoughts), but from the reader's. It makes you concentrate on things that matter to you inside. ... If you bring to a good poem all you are, it expands your understanding of yourself and the world. ... In an era when outward things such as bodies, shopping and diet are so obsessing, six lines of these verbal artefacts can let you see your own life and experience with new eyes. That "place for the genuine" opened up by poetry is in yourself. If you're pondering new year resolutions about health and happiness, joining the gym is not in the same league.Nice try, Ruth, but I'm going to aim for both physical and poetic ... improvement, even if not perfection, this year.
To add to my list of resolutions then: to buy and read more poetry and discover new favourites. And write about them on our poetry blog, Puisy-Poesy, which has made me think a great deal this year about what poetry works for me and what doesn't. (And I will hope to persuade a few more of you to send in a contribution.)
And to get writing more myself. Plans are in place. More news on this later. Promise.